In spite of the incredibly high heat and humidity which has been September, I have been thinking about the holidays ahead that will, much to my pleasure, require copious amounts of baking. As I age, I seem to become more like my mother in that she started early with her holiday baking so that by Thanksgiving and Christmas, the rooms of our home were filled with all kinds of baked goods and delicious aromas.
I took a trip down memory lane this week and flipped through mom’s red and white recipe box. These recipes have been in my possession for seventeen years, and I still spend time reflecting on cooking terms such as “dash,” “pinch,” and my family’s favorite “bake until done.” There is a handful of explanations which was not written down, but in conversation with mom, as she baked, I asked for clarification. Maybe some of the following baking terms are new for you. Hopefully, some will stir up memories of baking memories with friends and family.
Bake Blind Pie Crust – No, you don’t cover your eyes and hope for the best, although, I’m sure that’s been tried many times. This is the technique used for baking an unfilled pie shell. Line the pie dish with the pastry and prick the bottom with a fork to prevent “puffing.” Cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper on top of which you add rice, beans, or clay baking pellets as weights. Bake it for 10-15 mins at 425°F or for even better results, 350°F for an hour. Remove from oven and cool. Remove the liner and weights. Fill with a favorite filling. Proceed as recipe directs.
Bake until done – while not generally found in a cookbook, my grandmother added this note to several recipes. The key to knowing “done” was knowing what to expect for an outcome. For instance, to test a cake or custard, a baker would insert a dry piece of broom straw into the center. If it came out with the ingredients clinging, it wasn’t done. If it came out dry, it was done. Another way to determine a cake was “done” would have the baker look to see if the edges had pulled away from the pan sides.
Bard – This isn’t the poet, this is the term used for wrapping meat with pork fat to keep the meat moist while it cooks. What a delicious flavor added, as well!
Deviled – One of my favorite appetizers is the deviled egg. The term “devil’ describes food that is highly seasoned, chopped, ground, and the whole mixture served hot or cold. The earliest use was not for eggs, but for kidney dishes or other meats.
When referring to highly hot and spicy meat, fish, or cheese, the term “deviled” has a different meaning. Or it can refer to the hot and spicy “devil sauce” served over meat. My mother liked a moderately spicy food product called “Underwood Deviled Ham.” Still available today, it comes in a tin can and is still considered a treat.
Dot – A term used to refer to small amounts of butter added to the surface of food before baking or broiling, or sometimes just before serving.
Pie – Do you know the first pies were called “coffins” and were savory meat pies (Tourtière)? Originally the sides were flat and straight up; sealed to the floor of the pie, as well as the top. A pan was not used. The pastry, filled with meat and a rich, savory sauce, was thick and baked until it became hard and served as the baking dish. Lords and Ladies ate the contents but gave the crust to the servants as they considered the crusts too hard to eat.
Most American cooks use teaspoons and measuring cups to measure pastry flour, but in England and most other countries, flours are weighed for accuracy as humidity content of flour can change the amount used and hence, the outcome of the pastry.
Pinch of Salt – In English language terms, to take something with “a pinch of salt” is to be skeptical or not interpret something literally. In cooking terms, a pinch of salt is the amount of fine grain salt you can hold between your index finger and thumb. If you feel better measuring, it’s about 1/16 teaspoon. If you’re using a coarse grain, you’ll want to use a “smidgen,” which is less than a pinch and more than a “drop.” With those guidelines, who requires measuring spoons and cups?